Our 24 Hours of Le Mans/2

The race is over, and we recounts a fantastic experience in words and pictures. First, however, a very quick comment on the results!
By Stinger (photos and data by the official FIMEWC and Stinger)

So it’s over, and Honda placed two bikes in the top two. The first position went – a bit unexpectedly – to Team #5 FCC TSR Honda France (the first bike in the opening photo), which preceded the #111 Honda Endurance Racing.

But the fate of the competition was decided by the mistakes of the two Yamaha teams who were dominating the first hours of the race. First Team YART #7, out for a fall of Fritz, who destroyed the bike. Then there was GMT#94, slowed down by Checa’s off-piste, who brought the bike back to the pits push pushing it and allowed the mechanics to repair it and the team to resume the race, finishing in tenth place.
Kawasaki SRC #11 also had a few problems and finished fifth, 10 laps behind the first. While the BMW #13 of the German team Wepol Racing by Penz 13.com went strong, third! And so BMW has also entered the lot of manufacturers that can aim for success in the World Endurance Championship.
It should be noted that the Superstocks were very fast. The first is that of Team #36, the Yamaha of 3 ART – Moto Team 95, sixth overall. Second place and seventh overall for the other Yamaha #96 of the French team Moto Ain, led by Roberto Rolfo who has driven more than his team members, as his two teammates have both suffered physical problems!
Third place in the Stock and eighth overall for the Suzuki #72 Junior Team LMS.
Finally a negative note for the withdrawal of Team Kawasaki #33 Louit Moto, where Kevin Manfredi was racing. Electronics problems stopped them during the night. Kevin left immediately, leaving a nice message on our phone, despite the anger of the moment.

Now is the time for celebration and, forgive me, I’m going for a walk among the pilots. In fact, while I’m taking photos of the winners, from the back of the podium (here the video of the podium)!

HERE you find the final results, still in provisional form.

Below you can find notes that I prepared in the last hours of the race!

 

 

The Night
The race is over, and I like to rewind the tape a bit and return to yesterday evening when the darkness fell on the Bugatti circuit, and the sun left room for artificial lighting. The atmosphere that was created was somehow surreal, and I was enchanted for endless minutes to look no longer at the bikes, but at lights darting noisily along the black ribbon of asphalt.
Paradoxically, in the half-light of the straight line, I could notice details that were invisible during the day. In addition to the headlights, race numbers are illuminated too! And many bikes have LED stripes inside the fairing or along the swingarm, but only on one side.
It made me curious and I talked to some engineers about it. They explained to me that, even if pits are not in the dark, and they have specific lamps to work on the bike, having the chain side or the inside of the fairing illuminated helps in emergency situations.
Then there was some cheerful mechanic who added: “and then, how cool it is to see the bike at night illuminated that way?”.
Chapeau! I’ll take that. Also because, after a few laps I started to recognize the bikes no longer by their colours or numbers, but by the configuration of the lights, headlights and various LEDs.

Many breaks and many falls in this 24 Hours. Yesterday afternoon I saw live, from the screens of the press room, that of Marvin Fritz, of the Yamaha Yart team, who was one of the favourites. He wasn’t injured, but the bike capsized several times, literally disassembling itself.
The Yamaha GMT#94 team, who had already taken the lead in this race, benefited from the situation. And everything went well until David Checa ended up on the ground too. The bike was badly damaged, and he picked it up and pushed it to the pit to fix it and restart the race – the Team on Twitter points out that it fell exactly on the opposite side of the circuit! A sacrifice that has paid off with some points, since at the end of the 24 hours the team reached the tenth place. Well done Checa, and beautiful scene of his arrival in the pits, with the mechanics who applauded him, as seen in the video below!

 

The night goes on, and the real character of this race comes out. A resistance race for everyone. For the drivers, for the mechanics, for the engines that run to their limits, for the fans that challenge the night still in the stands to stay close to those that make the show. But wait, they do the show too!
Meanwhile, Team #18 Sapeurs-Pompiers stopped with a suspected engine fire, then discovered it wasn’t so. Yes, they are racing firemen, and ironically, it happened to them!

I sit in the press room and mentally play with the numbers that I have been given by the engineers. Two tonnes of hammering on the cylinder per each combustion, 166 revolutions of the crankshaft every single second, exhaust gases temperatures between 400 and 500 degrees Celsius.
More or less these are the stresses on a motorcycle engine at 10,000 rpm. Many of those who are here, however, run much higher! In short… do you understand now why they can break down?
Then there is the tiredness of drivers and mechanics, who despite the procedures in the box have been tried and tested, leads to occasional misunderstandings that waste time. And accidents, driving errors. Yet at the end of the 24 hours in the early hours, there was still who was driving around the circuit in 1’37 ish (Checa!).
This race is won with steadfast nerves, trying not to overdo it, trying to keep some margin on the bikes. I would say the exact opposite of a give-it-all race like MotoGP. But steady nerves and concentration, I know, are also needed there.

Along the track there are big screens, with the ranking updated. Fundamental, because – differently – you find yourself watching an uninterrupted passage of motorcycles, each one on its own way, even if they overcome and battle each other; but it is impossible to understand who is ahead and who, maybe, has more laps of delay.

But it is wonderful like this, without first or second, beautiful or ugly, fast or slow. All together to dance in the group inside the curve and no one who gives up on the throttle. And after 20 hours I start to notice that so many drivers are on track with deep scratches on their racesuits because of fallings, yet they flat out as if nothing happened.

There you go, this is the flavour of the 24 Hours Moto. As I write I’m still missing a few hours of racing.

The public is part of the show

 

Night falls on the circuit

 

The Paddock never sleeps

 

The race is over and the winning bikes of the 24 Hours of Le Mans 2018 are aligned.

 

Oops, I wasn’t supposed to be here! Back of the podium, along with the winners, a moment after the award ceremony!
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